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Stock Upgrades: Hewlett-Packard Boosted by Bank of America, Neither of Which Need the Dow

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Wall Street ratings agencies set the tone for today's stock market.

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On Monday "Pass the Courvoisier" proved pretty profitable advice as the cognac king's owner Beam Inc. (NYSE:BEAM) jumped 25.56% after being bought. On Wednesday, the S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX) helped US stock markets rise to records after the World Bank and its Busta Rhymes-wannabe leader lifted global growth assumptions. I'm much more of a Cole Porter man myself, but it does seem that hip-hop has received a bad rap. Larry Speakes, who in addition to being Ronald Reagan's communications chief was once the most appropriately named spokesman in the history of Merrill Lynch, sadly did live to see it, but the "Thundering Herd" yesterday made itself heard loud and clear. "Mother Merrill" made money talk most eloquently in inspiring its surging parent Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) to gain some 2.27%. Across the Atlantic, British raincoat maker Burberry (OTCMKTS:BBRYF) advanced 3.11% after announcing earnings. London fog or not, they say on a clear day you can see forever. But not in Beijing, where the Temple of Heaven was hidden under a coat of heavy smog. (If it's any consolation for our communist cousins, Hain Celestial (NASDAQ:HAIN) added on another 0.95%, to hit a historic high.) Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) fell 0.17% during the day and is slipping another 1.02% before the bell after Marissa Mayer announced afterhours, "During my own reflection, I made the difficult decision that our COO, Henrique de Castro, should leave the company." Moving from bye-bye to Dubai, moviegoers in the Emirates were appalled when The Wolf of Wall Street was butchered by censors. "Experts" inform us that the emergence of do-it-yourself Internet investing means the era of Jordan Belfort's cold-calling shenanigans is ancient history. When it comes to penny stocks, however, there is still hell to pay. Or H. L. Mencken to pay, for it was he who said, "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." Ain't that the truth.

In terms of economic events that may move US stock markets today, the January Philadelphia Fed Index is expected to show improvement from the prior month's pace at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Regarding specific stocks, American Express (NYSE:AXP), BlackRock (NYSE:BLK), Charles Schwab (NYSE:SCHW), Citigroup (NYSE:C), Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), and Taiwan Semiconductor (NYSE:TSM) all announce earnings.

Annie's (NYSE:BNNY): Annie's stock is now Neutral from Sell at Janney, which assigns it an amended price objective of $47.

AOL Inc. (NYSE:AOL): CRT Capital boosts stock in AOL Inc., which has been partying 1999-style of late, to Buy from Fair Value. Its target is $57.

Baytex Energy Trust (NYSE:BTE): Shares are increased to Overweight from Equal Weight by Barclays.

BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP): Citigroup takes the commodity company to Buy from Neutral.

Brookfield Office Properties (NYSE:BPO): Shares are now Neutral from Underweight at JPMorgan.

Brown-Forman (NYSE:BF.B): ISI Group gives the alcohol outfit a Strong Buy-from-Buy increase.

Casey's General (NASDAQ:CASY): The rating is raised to Outperform from Perform at Raymond James

CSX Corp. (NYSE:CSX): Argus increases its investment assessment to Buy from Hold. (Note that the company is, however, trading lower today after it missed earnings estimates.)

Emulex (NYSE:ELX): Shares are lifted to Buy from Neutral at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Gartner (NYSE:IT): Gartner gets a Buy-from-Neutral upgrade at Goldman Sachs.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ): After being unceremoniously booted from the Dow Average at the end of September, shares of Bank of America have jumped something like 22%. Hewlett-Packard, dumped from the blue chip index on the very same day, has seen its stock enjoy a similar subsequent surge, and today it is taken to Buy from Neutral at none other than Bank of America-Merrill Lynch. Shares are sharply higher ahead of this morning's opening bell as a result of the analyst hailing HP's half-decade turnaround efforts.

Nielsen (NYSE:NLSN): NLSN is now Buy from Neutral at Goldman Sachs.

NuVasive (NASDAQ:NUVA): Shares get taken to Neutral from Sell, again at Goldman.

Royal KPN (OTCMKTS:KKPNY): Citi raises its recommendation to Buy from Neutral.

Verint Systems (NASDAQ:VRNT): Citing an impressive recent acquisition, FBR Capital moves the stock to Outperform from Market Perform. Its target price, previously $40, increases by $15.

VMware (NYSE:VMW): The stock is now Buy from Neutral at Citigroup.

Western Digital (NASDAQ:WDC): Bank of America-Merrill moves the tech name to Buy from Neutral.

Volvo (OTCMKTS:VOLVY): The Swedish car company renowned for the safety of its vehicles gets hoisted to Overweight from Neutral at HSBC Securities.

Zurich Insurance Group (OTCMKTS:ZURVY): JPMorgan hikes the stock to Overweight from Neutral.

See also:

New Stock Coverage: Philip Morris Is Not Smoking Hot

Stock Downgrades: Time to Disown Family Dollar
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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